DOVER, Del. - With scanners all over the grandstands and fans listening in from home via satellite television and radio hook-ups, talk between a driver and his crew chief is now more of an open book than ever before.
Those conversations have become big stories after each of the past two Sprint Cup races, Tony Stewart's comments to his team as the Richmond race wrapped up and Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s chatter with his crew Sunday at New Hampshire shared a common theme, with frustrated drivers venting that anger with race fans eavesdropping and wondering what it all means.
Stewart waved off questions about his incident and Earnhardt Jr. will certainly be asked about his when the Cup teams gather at Dover on Friday to prepare for this weekend's Camping World RV 400.
Once last week's race was over, Earnhardt Jr. had nothing but good things to say about his team.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Modesto Bee
"My guys got me a lot of spots back on pit road that I lost," Earnhardt Jr. said. "They gained a bunch today so I want to thank them for that. ...They're an awesome bunch of guys. They did a good job today to get us a top-five."
But Earnhardt Jr. was running first in the Sylvania 300 when he got a set of tires that his car didn't like. As he was losing spots, the driver suggested his team needed to post a security guard to watch tires being handed out. He later said he needed to find a series that runs "half-distance races."
It was about then that team owner Rick Hendrick stepped in, getting on the No. 88 team's radio to try to get Earnhardt Jr. refocused.
"If you let things get to you, you will not win this Chase," Hendrick said after the race. "If you turn all the negatives into positives, if you have a bad race and go back and say, 'How can we be a little bit better in every category?' ... those are the guys that are going to win it."
Earnhardt Jr. has a notoriously volatile race-day relationship with his crew chief, Tony Eury Jr. They're cousins, and while Earnhardt Jr. is fiercely loyal to having Eury Jr. on his side, they sometimes bring a dysfunctional-sounding dynamic to their in-race communications.
"I listened to him (Earnhardt Jr.) when he had Lance McGrew as a crew chief and he was mild-mannered," Hendrick said. "He was just saying 'I need a little of this, or a little of that.'
"I just think it is like you and your brother playing in the house or out in the yard. You wouldn't treat a friend or neighbor that way. I think they can be better.
"I know Tony will be better and can help him more if he's calmer when he is giving him information. ...To my knowledge, I have never had one that gave us good information when he was on the chip. I think it is better information when he has had a little bit more time to think about it.
"Junior, he knows the car, he knows what he wants, he knows what adjustments he ought to make, but you drive, you can't keep up with what adjustments you made a change ago. Maybe he thought there was a big adjustment made and there was no adjustment. That was on the stop prior to that.
"Giving him good information and talking too him, he likes that. I think Tony has been so used to being quiet and letting him rant and go off. They both tell me they like it, so either they are lying to me, or they like it.
"I just think you can focus more when you are thinking about it rather than mad. He is not mad at Tony as much as he is frustrated with the situation. I know that has to kill you when you have a five-second lead and you come in for a pit stop and you are fifth or sixth, you are trying to get back up there and you can't."